Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Pretty Little Dead Girls

Just finished reading Pretty Little Dead Girls: a Tale of Murder and Whimsy by Mercedes M Yardley.

I saw the cover go by on Twitter and liked it. I went through a phase of impulsive cover buys from Twitter a couple of years back, but stopped because a lot of what I was downloading wasn't good. The cover tended to be the best part of it.

I hadn't heard of Yardly before, or visited her website, so now that I've just done that, I understand why this was so entertaining. She won the Bram Stoker Award in 2015 and again this year.

BRYONY ADAMS IS DESTINED TO BE MURDERED, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny.
A dark, lovely fairy tale with lyrical language and a high body count. 

The cover is by a Hugo Award Winner, Galen Dara, which might be why it stood out.

What to say?

Very unusual.

It's highly stylised, so not for all readers. It's hard to feel close to characters who are spoken about at a distance. That said, the style is part of its charm. Distant characters, and the examination of their lives, are what fairy tales are all about. A chance to examine actions and fate at a distance, and laugh at the in-jokes.

It's nice to actually read a book again, after my recent - and ongoing - Audible binge. It means I can share some nice passages:

"Excuse me," he said, stopping beside the woman as she read her book. She looked up, wiping bits of scone off from her lips.

"Yes?" she asked him with a barely detectable hint of nervousness.

"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, "but I happened to notice that you are reading the same book I am hoping to buy for my wife's birthday. Is it something that you would recommend?" A man walked by lazily, and the murderer's eyes followed him with studied nonchalance.

The woman, his "Kathleen", looked faintly surprised. "You want to buy your wife a copy of Why It Is Prudent To Kill the Man That You Marry?"

The killer's eyebrows raised a fraction before he could control them. "Why, uh... yes. Yes, I do. That is precisely the book that I wish so purchase. For my wife."

"Kathleen" shrugged, and the killer sighed in relief. The woman burst into a long and tedious book report using words like "feminist ideals" and "male oppressive dogs" and by the time they were completely alone and it was time for her to die, the murderer was very, very ready to kill her.


The body floating in Lake Washington had been a particularly young and pretty girl whose name is not important. It would have been to her family if they had been aware of her death, but they hadn't been in contact with her for years, ever since she left to run away with a man named Mike. Every girl has dated a Mike in her life, and very few of them have turned out to be a good decision, but it happens. This Mike turned out to be a typical Mike situation, and as soon as the girl told him that she was having a baby, he left her. Now this turned out to be a miscalculation on the girl's part, and there really was no baby, but since she found out the true depth (or lack thereof) of Mike's character, she decided that she was better off without him. As she would have been under most circumstances, but the very sad fact of the matter was that if she had been with Mike that particular night, she most likely would still be alive. So dead and without a roguish Mike, or alive and with him... really, either of these two options were undesirable, although one was preferable over the other.


A girl disappears, and a body turns up in her place, bereft and without soul. It is not fair trade, but that is exactly how it happens. There are bodies in the woods, bodies in the dumpsters. Bodies hidden in crawl spaces and in the trunks of cars and tossed into ravines. Bodies floating in the water and bodies with a thin skiff of dirt on top. They are soaked by constant, weeping rain, not the strong desert rain Bryony had experienced, but creeping, mewling rain. They are blanched and stepped over, and apple cores are hurled nearby. People, out walking their dogs, stumble upon them, this almost self-sustaining plethora of bodies.

There are so many cute passages, and briar-barbed phrases that catch the attention: a parasol of horrors, the gallantry of windscreen wipers, bird bones - tiny ribbons of calcium, all wrapped up in a beautiful nuclear holocaust. And, yes, I did look up jonquils.

It's been a while since I read something this different. Exceedingly quirky and indeed whimsical. Packed with repeating imagery of deserts and stars, which stays with you.

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